Review: The School of Essential Ingredients

Title:  The School of Essential Ingredients

Author:  Erica Bauermeister

Published:  January 22, 2009

Page Count:  256

Genre:  Fiction

My Rating:  4/5

The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives. One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen. 

The School of Essential Ingredients is a very difficult book for me to review because I liked it, quite a bit actually, but so has every other blogger on the planet.  And I don’t totally feel like I have anything new to add to the conversation about the book.  So, I’m going to just keep this one short and sweet.  I liked how each chapter was told from the perspective of a different character – telling the story this way really helped the cooking class come alive before my eyes and I loved getting to know each and every one of them.  I LOVED Bauermeister’s descriptions of the food they were cooking – I want to email her for every single recipe in this book (Natasha, this would be a GREAT author interview for your tell-me-a-recipe feature!!).  My mouth literally watered on more than one occasion while reading this novel – the descriptions were really that good.  The book left me feeling happy and comforted – a great feeling to have when closing a book every once in awhile.  Not overly emotionally attached to the characters or the story, just an overall feeling of contentment when I turned the last page.  I would recommend this book and I’m going to give you a huge list of other bloggers who would too. 🙂

More reviews –


13 thoughts on “Review: The School of Essential Ingredients”

  1. I just got this one the other day and I can’t wait to read it. Kathy (bermudaonion, above) recommended it specifically to me because of the food.

  2. She should have a list of the recipes in the back of the book! I’m sure the whole time I would be reading this all I could be thinking about is all of the great recipe blog posts!

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